With six months to go in what is expected to be a hotly contested race for Jefferson Parish president, candidate John Young has reported a sizable lead in a key metric: fundraising.
The former parish president’s campaign war chest, according to reports filed late last week, had $322,557. His chief declared opponent, at-large Councilwoman Cynthia Lee Sheng, reported $171,465.
Current President Mike Yenni, as of Tuesday afternoon, had not filed the required report 180 days prior to the Oct. 12 election, though he denied that signaled an intention not to run.
Yenni, once a rising political star, had his future clouded by a 2016 scandal in which he admitted sending inappropriate texts to a 17-year-old boy.
Since that time, speculation about his future has swirled in Jefferson Parish political circles. Many have assumed he will not run; late last year, two of his top lieutenants left his administration in what was viewed by some as confirmation that Yenni would not seek a second term.
But on Tuesday, Yenni maintained that he intended to file the finance report and blamed his campaign staff for failing to do so, though he still would not say whether he intends to jump into the race.
“I don’t know why” the 180-day report has not been filed, he said. Yenni said he was performing Navy Reserve duties and wasn’t aware that the deadline, which was Monday, had been missed. He added that he has two fundraisers scheduled for the coming months.
Regardless of Yenni’s decision, Young and Lee Sheng have already begun taking swipes at each other, with Young calling Lee Sheng “Cyanide Cynthia” in a mailer that highlighted her vote on the council last year to permit an expanded cyanide production facility at a Waggaman plant.
Lee Sheng hit back, saying that Young had supported the plant when he was parish president and calling his mailer “nasty.”
In other races, at least three candidates filed reports indicating they intend to run for one of the two at-large Parish Council seats. Both seats are open, as Lee Sheng is in the race for parish president and Chris Roberts is term-limited.
Keith Conley, Yenni’s political ally and former top deputy, reported $15,059 on hand to run for one of the two parishwide seats on the council, though his report indicates he has yet to declare which one. The qualifying deadline, when he must choose one, is not until Aug. 8.
Conley will likely have to run against either current District 2 Councilman Paul Johnston, who reported having $300,041 on hand, or current District 1 Councilman Ricky Templet, who reported having $233,570.
In other parishwide races to which the April 15 deadline applied, incumbents who filed reports included Sheriff Joe Lopinto, with $58,579, and Clerk of Court Jon Gegenheimer, who reported $226,671.
Parish Coroner Gerry Cvitanovich had not yet filed but said it was an oversight he would correct Wednesday. He said he doesn’t solicit campaign donations unless he draws an opponent and will return any unsolicited checks he receives if he is unopposed.
Assessor Thomas Capella also appeared not to have filed a fundraising report. He couldn’t be reached for comment.
Editor's Note: This story has been changed to reflect amounts included on John Young's superseding campaign finance report.